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Narcissism and Addiction

Narcissists tend to see everyone in their circle as somehow useful to bolstering their sense of self-importance.  This will inevitably include their partners and children who are treated as mere extensions of the narcissist’s person rather than autonomous individuals with needs and interests of their own. The narcissist would almost certainly deny that that was how they operated or nimbly reframe it to make it either acceptable or irrelevant.

Substances attractive when narcissism falters

It is important to understand that while narcissists may appear “full of themselves” they are, in fact, empty vessels that develop a highly sensitised outer layer to protect them from this sad reality. If they are full of anything it is the pain of that emptiness from which their narcissistic mind set keeps them disconnected. But they have to keep working at it to prevent the inner world of anxiety breaking through. When the carapace falters, substances or other addictive behaviours may be called into service.

Relationships break down

Narcissists expect everyone to be as dazzled and enthralled by their multifaceted brilliance as they are. As a result, their relationships are based on a single imperative: that they should be universally adored, no matter what. People tend therefore either to be in or out of the circle. If someone is excluded or chooses to remove him or herself, the narcissist will convince themselves that the other person is entirely to blame.  They take no responsibility for any breakdown in relationships.  There is often a trail behind narcissists of once-adoring followers now turned into denigrators, frequently because of abuse, betrayal or injury suffered at the hands of the narcissist. 

They will engage in all manner of manipulations and seductions to draw in people whose role is solely to serve the insatiable appetite for adulation and to provide justification for their sense of entitlement. For a while, people may be seduced and flattered to be in the orbit of the narcissist but it will not be long before they become disillusioned, coming to realise that there is little or nothing in it for them. They may anyway be discarded at any moment should they no longer be of use.

Narcissism and Addiction share characteristics

The association that narcissism has with addiction and perhaps with co-dependency in particular, is in the use of other people to prevent the conscious experience of reality and the deeply uncomfortable feelings that come with it. As with addiction, the narcissist is ultimately self-defeating, usually finding a way to bring about what he/she fears most; the failure to control the feelings of others who become alienated and even hostile.

Addiction, whether to substances, behaviours or people, has a narcissistic core as it is also compulsively self-centred. It is careless of others in the pursuit of self-gratification. It is isolating. It postpones confrontation with painful realities. It thrives on self-delusion and the deception of others. It is not hard to see why narcissists may be drawn into addiction when their defences fail. 

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